Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Day I Learned That Girls Listen to Metal

The early 2000's were the golden age of mixtapes for me. As mixtaping is still my all-time favorite activity I look back on this period with much reverence and bittersweet nostalgia. Websites like Livejournal and Makeoutclub were full of girls eager to trade their best compilations of indie rock and vanishing emo bands (I say girls specifically because in all that time I only traded with one guy, some dude from Arizona, though that tape did introduce me to Pinback). I still have every tape I was ever given, good or bad, excellent or awful, engrossing or embarrassing. It could be Spoon from that girl from Michigan, or the best song Green Day ever wrote from Allison from Boston, or any number of gems from Illinois' own Mallory. One funny thing is how I have still not grown out of certain awkwardnesses - for some guys these mixtapes may have acted as stepping stones to romantic encounters, whereas I would have been sent running for the hills. As much as I may have hoped for or desired these dream interactions, I turned away from them all, much as I might today.
I remember visiting one girl up in Boston (not Allison, she was a friend of a friend) named Brianna who actually gave me not one, but two tapes when we finally met. We spent most of the day together, she showed me around Beantown, we went record and thrift store shopping, and as the afternoon turned to evening and we sat in her car (and I played some found harmonica) she said I feel like we should be making out... This was, of course, my cue to reply Well, I should probably be heading back to Rob's house... Haha, what a honest-to-god geek. Now, did this girl ACTUALLY want to make out with me...pretty good chance the answer is NO. However, once I got that little nudge into the awkward zone, there was no escape.
This all came to mind today because I listened to a tape this morning that I haven't heard in many years. It was given to me by Vanessa from Ohio, aka: The One that Got Away. Save for the very few times in my life that I actually didn't blow it, every girl I've ever liked "got away", but Vanessa is the Queen of them all. From autumn '02 to early '03 I was a goofy 21 year old loser enamored by a girl from suburban Ohio. Everything she liked was amazing, and everything she hated I did too. One thing we had in common was our love of metal, and not corny-era Judas Priest or 80's garbage. She liked real, legitimate metal and hardcore. Let me be clear, I knew a TON of girls who liked punk, that was pretty common, but until that time I'd never met a girl who would start a mixtape with Emperor and end it with Nico. It reminds me of that Freaks and Geeks episode where they all fall for the girl who they shoot off rockets with and at the end of the episode they ask something to the extent of How are we NOT supposed to fall in love with her?
Well, as with most starry-eyed stories that unfortunately happen in reality, this one didn't have a happy ending. She asked me to visit her but I was too nervous to take the train (this is a stark contrast to present-day Brian who enjoys driving to Montreal on a whim), so she came to New Jersey on New Years Eve where I was a less-than-superb host and over the next couple months we drifted apart (this also being mainly my fault). Completely botching a chance with someone amazing stands as good reason to neglect a mixtape. Listening now I have to say it still holds up, sure it may have three Dystopia songs, but of the ten bands on it I bought cd's by five of them. Ugh, now I'm depressed. I have no idea what became of her, she's probably in a major city by now, championing the little guy and the downtrodden. Perhaps working for Kucinich, almost certainly married.
Thinking back to how I acted nearly a decade ago, I'm not surprised I don't mind getting older. I'm not nearly as shy or oblivious as I used to be, and I've met plenty of girls since then that like metal and I have somehow managed to not fall in love with (all of) them. I'm not sure why I felt the need to recount all of this so long after the fact. I miss the confessional aspect of Livejournal, being able to share something with people who can then recall their own moments of stupidity or regret. We've all been there. There's something reassuring about looking back and admitting you used to be kind of ridiculous, and it's okay. It's even better with a soundtrack.

This drawing accompanied the tape Vanessa gave me. Maybe one day I'll write a book about her, I bet someone already has.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Trapped in The (Lord's) Closet

Last Thursday, having absolutely nothing to do on my lunch break, I decided to check out a tiny thrift store down the road from my office. I'd only been in there once before and was not wowed, but it was right next to an ice cream store so at the very least I might come away with a cone. The place is small and jam-packed with garbage. It looks like a garage full of crap threw-up on another garage full of crap. Barely visible aisles slowly emerged cluttered with discontinued and forgotten kitchen tools left un-boxed and hanging like vines. The entire back third of the store is covered in double-stacked, hideous clothing, adorned with a notice that reads ALL SHIRTS AND PANTS $3.50. - this was my first sign that the place was on another planet.
After perusing the audio cassettes and VHS (I thought I saw a movie called A Punk Christmas, but it was actually an animated feature called A Pink Christmas with the Pink Panther), I made my way toward the only thing I really ventured out for, records. Always, it's ALWAYS records. That divine gamble of forcing yourself to sift through hundreds of dusty, boring records to hopefully find just one or two that you wouldn't mind knowing you own. Thrift store records / thrift store record buying is different from any other excursion. You will be frustrated, just accept it before you even begin. You will see more classical compilations and musicals and strange ambient 50's records for entertaining housewives than you ever imagined existed. Do you know how many records Barbara Streisand or Connie Francis or Linda Ronstadt put out?? Anyone who's excavated thrift store record shelves knows that it's too many to count.
Surprisingly, this trip was going rather well, I flipped through four shelves of true garbage and more than a few misplaced laserdiscs, and actually found about 14 records I wouldn't mind picking up. I even found the unfailingly available copy of Emmerson, Lake & Palmer's Tarkus, a record that is famous (in some circles) for it's ridiculous artwork and inexplicable availability at any store selling used records.

To give you an idea of what I was dealing with, here's a few of the (heavily scratched and phenomenally dusty) records I was semi-stoked about finding: Rush's Fly By Night and Signals, Fleetwood Mac's Rumors and Tusk, some random Krokus record (which was located right next to Judas Priest's Unleashed In the East, which I purchased last Record Store Day), a record by Tim Curry (??), a children's record of Spooky Stories, Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs' Wooley Bully, a bubblegum pop compilation featuring The 1910 Fruitgum Company (pun certainly intended), some random radio station's Rock of New Jersey compilation from like '82, and some other junk. Nothing that I would consider paying more than $1 for (I would have gone to $2 for the Rush records, I'm really into them right now for some reason??), but also nothing that I would assume would cost more than $1.
I put my picks to the side and since there was no sign displaying record prices I headed to the front counter and very politely asked How much are the records? The reply kind of blew my mind. They start at $5, we have to check the list. I really should have known, there's a reason this place is overflowing with worthless trinkets, it's outrageously overpriced. Alright, thanks I said as I walked back to cram my choices back on to the shelf. I could hear a faint voice that sounded like Geddy Lee say, No, please, buy us...we've been here so long. Sorry guys.
It's funny when you come across people that think any vinyl, and I mean ANY vinyl is worth money. Just because you have Born to Run doesn't mean you can charge $5 dollars for it, in fact, it means you should charge nowhere near $5 for it because it's EVERYWHERE. These people don't understand how many copies of Hall & Oates and Police records are out there, in far better shape and being sold by people who get it. I mean, you can see in the Tarkus picture, there were records with no sleeves! Are they really gonna tell some dude he has to pay $5 for a bare copy of Candy-O??
They can run their business however they want I guess. It's just so frustrating, I feel as if there is an unwritten thrift store code and anything in that poor of shape can not be priced over $1. The other thrift store I go to has .99 scrawled in crayon on nearly every record in the place, except for the one time I saw a copy of Elton John's Madman Across the Water behind the counter for $10. You just have to laugh. I remember being like twelve years old going to a town-wide yard sale and finding the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack on vinyl. I was so excited that it was only fifty cents or whatever it was, This HAS TO BE worth money!! I didn't even own a record player but I picked it up right then, as a sort of investment for the future. In my defense, twelve-year-olds are dumb and I was no exception. Someone needs to let delusional thrift store folk in on the fact that their Journey records aren't worth the cardboard they're packaged in. I would have done it, but it's kind of mean.